Status Report

AIP FYI#30: Reading the Tea Leaves: Congress Starts Work on FY 2006 S&T Budget

By SpaceRef Editor
March 15, 2005
Filed under ,

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 30: March 14, 2005

The budget resolutions that the House of Representatives and the
Senate will debate this week are, at best, imperfect predictors of
this fall’s appropriations bills. As proposed broad-brush taxing
and spending blueprints for the next fiscal year, the budget
resolutions are the first indicators of congressional reaction to
the Administration’s FY 2006 budget request, and they provide an
early sense of the direction of future spending.

The House and Senate will debate budget resolutions this week that
consist primarily of figures on different categories of spending.
One of these budget categories, or functions, is for General
Science, Space, and Technology. Most physical science research
spending is found in this $24.6+ billion category. The House and
Senate budget resolutions would increase spending in this function
by 1.3%. This is a dollar increase of $310-$320 million for all
budgets in this category. NASA is seeking an increase of $386
million in FY 2006. The House Budget Committee states that within
this function “the Budget Committee assumes full funding of the
President’s request for NASA.”

Leading up to the writing of the budget resolutions were the “Views
and Estimates” provided by authorizing committees. The House
Committee on Science filed such a document earlier this month. The
absence of the usual companion document was of note; House Democrats
on the Science Committee did not write their own report. Ranking
Democratic Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) explained, “Although this
committee is historically bipartisan, this year was unusual in that
Democrats found the statements of the Chair to be so on point that
we wanted to join him to send a stronger message to the
Administration, Budget Committee and Appropriators that the science
and technology budget the President submitted is not the best we can
do even under the current fiscal circumstances. We have to do
better.” This bipartisan spirit is a testimony to House Science
Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Gordon’s leadership
of this committee, and the work of the committee’s staff on both
sides of the aisle.

The committee’s Views and Estimates can be accessed at: The
26-page publication states “The Committee believes the proposed
funding for basic research is insufficient. Funding short-term
development at the expense of longer-term basic and applied research
is not advisable, and neglects those portions of R&D where
government support is most crucial. The Committee also believes
that the budget must fully consider appropriate balances between
defense and non-defense R&D spending and between biomedical and
non-biomedical spending. At $71 and $29 billion, respectively, the
R&D budgets of DOD and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
account for more than 75 percent of the total R&D budget.” Later in
the document the committee characterized the FY 2006 request for the
DOE Office of Science as “inadequate” that will do little to bring
physical sciences funding into parity with life sciences funding.
The committee “strongly supports” the budget request for NIST core
laboratory programs and facilities, but was “disappointed” in the
recommendations for the Advanced Technology Program and the
Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Regarding the National Science
Foundation, the committee called the overall budget request
“inadequate,” saying it was “especially disturbed” by the proposed
cuts in NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. There was
a range of opinion regarding the Administration’s request for NASA,
the document stating: “The Committee is divided over the NASA budget
request as of now even though there is broad support for the basic
thrust of the Space Exploration Vision outlined by the President on
January 14, 2004. Key questions include the relative priority of
NASA funding as compared to that of other science agencies; the
adequacy of funding for science and aeronautics within NASA; and the
future of the NASA workforce.”

Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.